Distraction Causes Crashes, Technology May Help

A jury in Mobile recently assigned guilt to a man behind the wheel of a pickup truck involved in a fatal crash in 2014. The collision killed a 24-year-old Mississippi woman. Defendant, 23, reportedly looked down at his phone for just a few seconds before looking back up to realize the vehicle in front of him had stopped. He swerved to avoid a rear-end collision, but ended up striking another pickup head-on, causing the second truck to roll and ejecting its driver.

Prosecutors say he was “fixated” on his smartphone at the time of the wreck. AL.com reports that in the 1 hour 25 minutes before the crash – the whole time of which he was driving – defendant reportedly checked instant messages, looked at dating site profiles, accessed Facebook and Twitter and updated his own dating site profile. The last time he accessed his phone, records show, was 32 seconds before the 911 call about the wreck.

This kind of situation is not uncommon. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports every single day in this country, 9 people die and another 1,153 are seriously injured in distracted driving crashes. And yet, last year when the Alabama legislature had the chance to expand its anti-texting law to encompass other forms of driving distraction, it declined to do so. The bill would have banned not just texting, but personal grooming, reading, writing, interacting with pets or engaging in any action that prevents a driver from devoting necessary attention to driving.

But, there is some good news, auto manufacturers are taking action. In a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), vehicles equipped with front-end crash prevention are far less likely to rear-end other vehicles. Rear-end collisions in Alabama are among the most common types of distracted driving crashes.

The study found that systems with automatic braking slashed rear-end crashes by, on average, as much as 40 percent. Systems with just forward collision warnings reduced rear-end crashes by 23 percent.

What’s more, even when crashes weren’t prevented, the auto-brake system was associated with injuries that were less severe. That’s likely because drivers who are warned even seconds ahead of time have the advantage of reducing speed. Even dropping 10- or 15-mph can make a huge difference upon impact.

The institute surmised that if all vehicles came standard with this technology, there would be a reduction of some 700,000 police-reported rear-end crashes each year. That means we’d have 13 percent fewer overall police-reported crashes.

Study authors say as this technology becomes more widespread, we can anticipate markedly less crashes on our roads.

This is good news, especially considering crash statistics have spiked recently. The National Safety Council reported there was a 28 percent surge in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2015 compared to 2014 – the single largest year-over-year increase in 50 years. In total, 38,300 people were killed and another 4.4 million were seriously injured. Experts have attributed this largely to cheap gas prices and higher employment.

At this point, any reduction on fatal motor vehicle accidents is most welcome.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

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